Certification and other external credentials for training and development professionals.
By Saul Carliner
Thinking about certifying as a training and development professional? You certainly have many choices. U.S.-based professionals can choose among the CPLP, CPT, and CTT and those living in Canada have national certifications.
In addition to spelling out those acronyms, this article identifies the certifications available to training and development professionals. But first, it places certification within the broader scope of external credentials, and describes the role of transferable credentials
in attesting to the qualifications of training and development professionals.
Transferable credentials are ones awarded by independent third parties and one that holders hope employers might weigh favorably in hiring, selection, promotion, and reward decisions.
Professionals’ interest in acquiring transferable credentials has grown with the implicit shift in talent management strategies over the last two to three decades. In the past, employers sought career-long relationships with their workers, as long as the workers’ performance was satisfactory. Under such approaches, workers were valued and rewarded for their seniority. In the late 1980s, talent management strategies started to emphasize skills over seniority. Employers sought relationships with workers as long as those workers had relevant skills to offer the organization.
That focus on skills, in turn, drove interest in transferable credentials, as these are believed to provide external validation that workers actually possess the skills claimed, as well as credentials that are parochial to a given employer. There are several types of transferable credentials that help professionals demonstrate their qualifications for work in a field. These include formal peer recognition of work products and achievements, academic degrees, and certificates. Each type of credential communicates a different message about the qualifications of the candidate.
Formal peer recognition
of work products and achievements usually is provided in the form of awards. Most awards programs are sponsored by professional organizations, including American Society for Training and Development’s Excellence in Practice Awards and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development’s People Management Awards. Some consultancies and publications also offer awards programs, such as Brandon Hall’s awards for excellence in e-learning and Training
magazine’s Training Top 125.
Many professional organizations also recognize career-long contributions to the field, such as the Lifetime Membership awarded by the International Society for Performance Improvement and the Fellows program of the Canadian Society for Training and Development.
The strength of awards is that they demonstrate effective performance. The limitation of awards is that the standards of performance vary among awards programs and often are not aligned with those of a hiring manager. Furthermore, most awards recognize a work product to which several workers contribute. Such awards neither identify the contributions of individual workers, nor assess that contribution.
represent a second transferable credential. They indicate successful completion of a program of study. Training and development professionals typically hold degrees in the fields of Adult Education, Educational Leadership, Educational (Instructional) Technology, Human Resource Development (HRD) and Management (with a concentration in Human Resources). In general, programs are available at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.
Although specific qualifications vary by institution, completing a bachelor’s degree typically suggests that the graduate has completed 10 or more courses in the major, a series of general educational courses required of all students for the degree, and maintained a grade point average of 2.0 or better on a 4.0 scale.
A master’s degree in North America typically suggests that the graduate completed eight or more courses in the major, maintained a grade point average of 3.0 or better, and might have completed a capstone requirement, such as a qualifying examination, a thesis or similar paper, or portfolio presentation. (Requirements often differ on other continents.)
A doctoral degree always suggests that the graduate successfully completed a dissertation. To do so, the candidate would have successfully passed qualifying examinations and defended a dissertation proposal. Because curricula vary widely among programs, and Ph.D.s in training and development can earn their doctorates in a variety of fields, completing a Ph.D. in this or a related field provides no guarantee of familiarity with a specified body of knowledge despite the presence of common components in many programs.
That’s a gap that the next types of transferable credentials try to address: accreditation, certificates, licensure, and certifications.
is a process that validates academic programs. Accreditation is intended to promote high standards of professional preparation and typically starts by specifying standards that programs should meet. These standards identify core competencies that programs should develop, bodies of literature to which students should be exposed, resources that should be available to the program, and qualifications of academic faculty. “The guiding belief behind the standards is that of unity in the essentials and diversity in the specifics” (Chalofsky, Ruona, Dooley, Hatcher, Jacobs, Kuchinke, Swanson & Marsick, 2008, p.1).
Standards only exist in the disciplines of Human Resource Development (the discipline that most directly addresses training and development) and educational technology (though these standards do not specifically focus on training and development).
To an individual student, attending a program that meets these academic standards assures a certain level of preparation and rigor in studies. The challenge, at this time, is that the standards and any process of determining that academic programs meet these standards are voluntary and no formal accreditation process exists specifically aimed at training and development.
In addition, guidelines focusing on Human Resource Development (the academic discipline underlying training and development) only address graduate programs and only in HRD. As a result, universities can offer degrees in other fields and at the undergraduate level without having standards to guide them. More significantly, the accreditation standards are so new, and no formal accreditation process exists, so many programs that might be interested in complying are not yet able to meet them. Furthermore, if the programs meet accreditation standards, few practicing professionals, much less prospective students, are likely to be familiar with the standards and use them as criterion in selecting schools.
contrast with academic degrees, and are awarded to individuals who complete particular programs of study. Certificates vary in format, from a two- or three-day workshop (such as those that were offered by the American Society for Training and Development and those offered before the Training magazine Events conferences) to 10-course programs in a particular field of study (such as the diploma in Human Resource Management available from the continuing education units of the Concordia Universities in St. Paul, MN, and Montreal, Quebec).
Certificates are intended to recognize mastery of the content of the program of study and should require both participation in class and successful completion of an assessment (Hale 2000). They also offer many advantages to participants, including easy enrollment (most do not have admissions standards) and quick completion (often a matter of days). In practice, these programs pose many problems.
Some certificates add to the confusion by marketing themselves as “certifications” and suggesting that participants who complete these programs use designators beside their name.
Although similar in name to certificate programs, certification represents a fundamentally different concept: validation of demonstrated competence in a particular field by a third-party assessor.
Certification candidates demonstrate competence through one or more of these means: passing examinations that demonstrate familiarity with a body of knowledge central to the field of certification, skills demonstrations, and evaluations of work portfolios (which usually require that candidates certify that the work in the portfolio is their own).
Candidates who successfully complete a certification process are required to adhere to the code of ethics for their profession. Most certification programs also require that professionals maintain their certification either by participating in ongoing professional development activities or re-taking the certification exam. Several certifications are available to training and development professionals.
All certifications are voluntary; candidates can choose whether or not to seek it, and employers can choose whether or not to recognize it as a credential when hiring or promoting individuals.
Training and development professionals can choose among several certifications: Some are national in scope, others are international. Some are offered by professional associations for training and development professionals, while others are offered by associations serving professionals in other fields.
Because certification is voluntary, it does not serve as a gatekeeper to the profession. That is, people do not need certification to practice training and development.
would serve that gatekeeper function. Like certification, licensure involves an examination process. Unlike certification, licensure is compulsory. Governments require licenses to practice certain professions, especially those in which the potential for physical or financial risk to the recipient of the service is high. Medicine and law require licenses, but so does cosmetology (hair styling) because, as a stylist once commented, “I can do some serious damage with these scissors.”
Another way that licensure differs from certification is that licensed professionals are fully liable legally for their professional decisions. That legal liability discourages some professionals from seeking licensure. For example, many engineers practice in the field without a license.
In most licensed occupations, however, practicing without a license is not a viable option. As a result, the license acts as a barrier to entry. To ensure that candidates for licensure have had proper preparation, a corresponding process exists to accredit institutions that offer preparation programs. Only graduates of accredited institutions can sit for the licensure exam.
Although no jurisdiction requires a license to practice training and development, many require licenses to teach in the primary and secondary school systems, some (such as the country of Peru) require them to teach in higher education, and others require licenses to teach adult education courses, including some workplace learning courses (as does the United Kingdom).
Current Training Certifications
The following are the certifications available to training and development professionals. In addition to the certifications specifically tailored to the field, the list also includes certifications available in related fields.
Associate Membership, Specialization in Learning and Development, Chartered Institute for Personnel Development
, is a certification for a person working in the United Kingdom who works “in a role giving vital support to the key areas of HR (central HR, learning and development or another professional area of HR). They use their specialist HR skills and knowledge to support HR leaders and managers.” (CIPD 2010a). The process of receiving this certification starts with a completion of the Certificate in Learning and Development Practice program of study, reaching minimum levels of work experience, and then participating in a work-based Professional Assessment of Competence, which involves an interview with a certification adviser; a review of work samples; a 7,000-word report; and evidence of continuing professional development.
Certified Performance Technologist (CPT)
, the certification offered by the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), “recognize[s] practitioners who have demonstrated proficiency in the Standards of Performance Technology and to promote the adoption of the Standards throughout the profession” (International Society for Performance Improvement 2009). This certification, launched in 2002, involves evaluation of a portfolio. Candidates submit:
“a detailed description of work performed in multiple projects in a manner that demonstrates the use of each of the Standards with attestations from internal/external clients or supervisors. A qualified reviewer will review all the documentation received from a candidate and determine if all requirements have been met.” (International Society for Performance Improvement 2009).
Only candidates with at least three years’ experience in the field can apply for certification. Upon receiving certification, candidates must formally commit to upholding the ISPI Code of Ethics and to recertify once every three years. Fee for certification is $995 for ISPI members (which includes international members), and $1,195 for associate non-members. Recertification fees are $175 for ISPI members (which includes international members), and $250 for associate non-members (International Society for Performance Improvement, 2009).
Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)
, the certification program of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), “equips you with the tools to be the best in the field and lets employers know that you have real world, practical expertise that can be readily applied to the current work environment. CPLP gives you the capability, credibility, and confidence to be a high performing contributor in your organization” (ASTD CI, 2009). This certification, launched in 2006, involves passing a two-part assessment that covers several competencies, including: designing learning, delivering training, improving human performance, measuring and evaluating, facilitating organizational change and managing the learning function. The first part of the assessment is a computerized multiple-choice test that assesses general knowledge of all six competencies. The second is a skill demonstration, in which a team of experts assesses a work product that addresses one of the competencies. Candidates also submit a related statement that illuminates the work product. Certification is valid for three years; ASTD offers a recertification process. Fee for the exam is $799 for ASTD National members (which includes international members), and $999 for non-members. Candidates can purchase preparation materials for an additional fee (ASTD CI, 2009).
Certified Technical Trainer + (CTT)
is offered by CompTIA, an association that administers certifications for information technology (IT) professionals. This certification recognizes “that an instructor has attained a standard of excellence in the training industry” (CompTIA n.d., p.3). Specifically, it certifies a professional’s competency as both a classroom and virtual classroom instructor. Like the CPLP, receiving the CTT involves a knowledge exam (test) and a skill demonstration. Candidate materials for the certification do not mention an expiration to the certification, or a recertification requirement. Although offered by an association serving the IT industry, CompTIA believes its instructor certification “can be applied to all industries that provide technical training, non-technical training, and education” (CompTIA, n.d.). This certification was launched in the late 1990s by Chauncey Associates, then a for-profit division of Educational Testing Service and later sold to Prometric (itself eventually purchased by ETS), and later sold to CompTIA. Fee for the exam is $208 for CompTIA members and $258 for non-members. Preparation resources are additional, and include certified third-party courses, such as ones offered by Friesen-Kaye Associates.
Certified Training and Development Professional (CTDP)
, the certification offered by the Canadian Society for Training and Development, “demonstrates you have a thorough understanding of the common body of knowledge of our profession” (CSTD 2009). This certification, launched in 1995, can be achieved through examination-based or portfolio assessments. Both assess five areas of competency: analysis, design, facilitation, transfer of training, and evaluation. Applicants who choose the examination take a two-part exam much like the CPLP and CTT: a knowledge exam, which is a computerized multiple-choice test that assesses general knowledge of all five competencies, and a skills demonstration, in which participants can demonstrate their ability to apply knowledge in one of the five competencies. Applicants who choose the portfolio assessment submit a summary of their qualifications and provide work products (along with verification of authenticity) to demonstrate that their skills. At this time, no recertification requirement exists. Fee for certification is $C850 (the two currencies are at or near par at the time this Forum was written) (Canadian Society for Training and Development 2009).
Certified Training Practitioner (CTP),
the second certification offered by the Canadian Society for Training and Development, is primarily intended for full- and part-time instructors (as opposed to training and development professionals who, under the CSTD definition, also design, manage, evaluate, coach, or administer training). The certification process is nearly identical to the Certified Training and Development Program, with a few exceptions. The knowledge exam and skills demonstration only address the facilitation competency (the CTDP process assesses four additional competencies). Also, the cost differs: $C650 (Canadian Society for Training and Development 2009).
Diploma in Training and Development
: In addition to these certifications, the Indian Society for Training and Development offers a diploma; in the context of this article, this would be similar to a certificate. This 18-month correspondence program is intended “to meet the long-felt need for skill formation in learning/training skills” (Indian Society for Training and Development 2003a). Students take a prescribed set of courses through correspondence, submit several assignments—including theory papers and responses—take examinations, and complete an internship (Indian Society for Training and Development, 2003b). Only those who already meet eligibility criteria (such as a postgraduate degree or another professional designation) can take the course. The Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development recognizes this diploma as a qualification to “superior posts” (Indian Society for Training and Development, 2003c). The diploma was launched in 1979, and, as of 2003, 16,000 people had completed it (Indian Society for Training and Development, 2003a). Fee for the program is 25,000 Indian Rupees (Indian Society for Training and Development, 2003a), which is approximately $540.
Human Resource Management Certifications
: In addition to certifications specifically available in training and development, professionals in the field also can choose to certify in the broader field of Human Resources Management (HRM). Like certifications in training and development, certifications in HRM are voluntary and programs exist through U.S.-based and national professional associations. These include:
From the U.S.-based HR Certification Institute (the certification arm of the Society for Human Resource Management): Professional in Human Resources (PHR) (entry-level), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR)
The Canadian Human Resources Professional Association offers the Certified Human Resources Professional
From the U.K-based Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development: several additional tiers of certification for HR professionals and leaders, including Chartered Membership (the next level above that for a learning and development professional) and Chartered Fellow (top level of certification).
The challenge of these broader HR certifications to HRD practitioners is that HR certifications address all of the topics in Human Resources. For example, the HR Certification Institute exams cover topics such as strategic management, workforce planning and employment, Human Resource development, total rewards, employee and labor relations, risk management, and core knowledge (HR Certification Institute 2010b). The Canadian exams cover professional practice in Human Resources; organization effectiveness; staffing; employee and labor relations; total compensation; workplace health and safety; and Human Resources information management (Canadian Council of Human Resource Associations, 2009b). Questions on training and development comprise less than 20 percent of the examination on both of these exams.
AWorld Federation of Personnel Management Associations coordinates different exams worldwide and has initiated a research project to compare the competencies identified in different national organizations to “whether or not a common core of competencies exists for human resource management around the world, and therefore whether it is possible to define an HR professional” (World Federation of Personnel Management Associations, 2010).
: In addition to certifications directly in training and development or HRM, some professionals in this field seek certifications related to their industries or technical specialties. Among these, the certifications available from the Project Management Institute are popular, especially for those managing large e-learning and training and development projects. Such certifications typically complement those in training and development, rather than replace them. Also popular are certifications in life and management coaching, which are offered by for-profit companies rather than nonprofit professional organizations and, therefore, not addressed by this article.
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ASTD CI. (2009.) Looking to be the best? C PLP is your ticket to success! Viewed http://www.astd.org/content/ASTDcertification/. Visited January 3, 2010.
Canadian Council of Human Resource Associations. (2009a.) What is the CHRP designation? Viewed at http://www.cchra.ca/Web/certification/content.aspx?f=29771. Visited January 3, 2010.
Canadian Council of Human Resource Associations. (2009b.) National recertification log. Viewed at http://www.cchra.ca/Web/recertification/recertification_log.aspx?f=29849. Visited January 3, 2010.
Canadian Council of Human Resource Associations. (2010.) About us. Viewed at http://www.cchra.ca/Web/CCHRA/content.aspx?f=29752. Visited January 3, 2010.
Canadian Society for Training and Development. (2009.) Certification. Viewed at http://www.cstd.ca/ProfessionalDevelopment/Certification/tabid/231/Default.aspx. Visited December 20, 2009.
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Chalofsky, N., Ruona, W.E.A., Dooley, L., Hatcher, T., Jacobs, R., Kuchinke, K. P., Swanson, R. A., & Marsick, V. (2008.) Academy of Human Resource Development Standards for HRD Graduate Program Excellence. Academy of Human Resource Development.
CompTIA. (n.d.) CompTIA CTT+ Candidate Handbook of Information Classroom Trainer Certification.
Oakbrook Terrace, IL: CompTIA.
HR Certification Institute. (2010a.) A history of the HR Certification Institute. Viewed at http://www.hrci.org/aboutus/history/. Visited January 3, 2010.
HR Certification Institute. (2010b.) PHR /SPHR Body of Knowledge, Appendix A—PHR/SPHR Test Specifications. Viewed at http://www.hrci.org/certification/bok/nbok/. Visited January 3, 2010.
HR Certification Institute (n.d.). Viewed at http://www.hrci.org/HRCertification.aspx?id=2147483788. Visited June 28, 2010.
Indian Society for Training and Development (2003a.) ISTD Diploma: An introduction. Viewed at http://www.istddiploma.org/diploma.asp. Visited January 3, 2010.
Indian Society for Training and Development (2003b.) ISTD Diploma: Course structure. Viewed at http://www.istddiploma.org/content.asp. Visited January 3, 2010.
Indian Society for Training and Development (2003c.) ISTD Diploma: Employers and professional recognition. Viewed at http://www.istddiploma.org/govt.asp. Visited January 3, 2010.
International Society for Performance Improvement. (2009.) CPT FAQs. Viewed at http://www.ispi.org/content.aspx?id=426. Visited January 3, 2010.
World Federation of Personnel Management Associations. (2009.) Competencies project. Viewed at http://www.wfpma.com/projects/competencies-background.asp. Visited January 3, 2010.
Saul Carliner is a Certified Training and Development Professional (CTDP). He is an associate professor with the Graduate Program in Educational Technology at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, and serves as chair of the Certification Steering Committee for the Canadian Society for Training and Development. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at http://saulcarliner.blogspot.com.